Man’s Best Friend Gives Veterans a New “Leash” on Life

June is PTSD Awareness Month, and one organization is enlisting the help of caring canines to help American veterans heal and thrive when they come back home.

You’ve probably heard the saying that dogs are ‘man’s best friend.’ But for Army veteran Benjamin Stepp, his golden retriever Arleigh is so much more. Stepp did two tours in Iraq, sustaining a brain injury and injuries to his ankle, legs, and lower back. Every day, Stepp lives with continuous pain, cognitive struggles, and PTSD. And yet he still managed to graduate from the University of Mississippi and become a Nationally Certified Counselor.

K9s for Warriors

K9s for Warriors was founded in March of 2011 with the goal of changing the lives of both US veterans and rescued dogs. The dogs and their vets are each given a new lease on life when they graduate the training program.

As of May 2017, over 300 vets have been paired with rescued dogs. According to the K9s for Warriors website, the dogs and their vets learn tools to help deal with PTSD and other debilitating conditions with the goal of empowering each vet to “return to civilian life with dignity and independence.” Many program graduates go on to reunite with their families or pursue higher education. Some are eventually able to significantly reduce their medications.

Thanks to Arleigh, Benjamin Stepp was able to graduate from college, and will go on to help other veterans as a counselor.

K9s for Warriors serves any US veterans who became disabled while serving in the military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The program is 100% free for the veterans, who are flown to Camp K9 in Ponte Vedra, Florida where they are paired with a dog and begin their training. The cost to place a service dog with a veteran costs around $27,000. The popular program has a waiting list that currently stretches to about two years. If you would like to learn more about K9s for Warriors or make a donation, visit their website at

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